In a response to a High Court of Justice petition ahead of a hearing on Thursday, the Defense Ministry said that it will start drafting haredi men reaching the age of military service only in the summer and “in a gradual manner” over a period of two years.

In addition, the state said in its response that yeshiva students aged 20 and above, who until now have received military service deferrals in accordance with the “Tal Law” of 2002, should not be drafted until the Knesset rules on the issue.

Draft reform campaigners reacted angrily to the publication of the response, accusing the ministry and the government of breaking the law by not drafting haredi yeshiva students, following the expiration of the Tal Law in August that allowed full-time yeshiva students to indefinitely defer their military service.

The petition, demanding that the state prepare for the integration into the army of haredi men reaching the age of military service, was filed by the Movement for Quality Government.

Shahar Ilan, deputy director of the religious freedom lobbying group Hiddush, said that the Defense Ministry did not have the authority to decide whom it will or will not be drafting, nor when it will be drafting them, and argued that only the Knesset could make such determinations.

Although the army cannot immediately absorb the 40,000 full-time yeshiva students currently aged between 20 and 30 at this time, Ilan argued that if the state was serious about drafting them, it could start doing so for a few hundred students at the very least.

“Since the Tal Law expired, the state has been breaking the law of military service...

and the implications of its response to the High Court is that it does not intend to obey [its ruling], at least until after the elections and the establishment of a new government,” Hiddush director Uri Regev said.

Hiddush has previously claimed that the government is playing for time and will seek to pass new legislation after elections exempting haredi yeshiva students once again from military service.

However, the state said in its response to the petition that 800 haredi men of the 1995 and 1994 cohorts have already presented themselves to the IDF drafting offices, of which 200 had completed the selection process, received drafting orders and are expected to enlist in July 2013.

The state’s response also claimed that in light of a temporary arrangement formulated by the army last month and, according to the state, being implemented by the Defense Ministry, it is not breaking the law.

It pointed out that it has begun proceedings for the enlistment of haredi men belonging to the 1995 cohort scheduled to enlist this year as well as the previous year’s cohort from 1994, and argued that the expiration of the Tal Law did not obligate the state to immediately begin the enlistment process for all yeshiva students from earlier cohorts.

“This arrangement is balanced and reasonable considering the various constraints facing the IDF,” the state wrote in its response to the petition.

Attorney Tzruyah Meidad- Lozon, legal adviser to the Movement for Quality Government, said that if the state does not immediately prepare for the drafting of the 40,000 yeshiva students outside of the ’94 and ’95 cohorts, it would not be able to draft them at all in the future.

“It is appropriate to enlist those who are obligated to serve and to evaluate which of them can be utilized by the army and which for the purposes of reserve duty,” Meidad- Lozon said.

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